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Sunday, September 23, 2012

Fresh Pasta


I spent this Sunday driving back and forth along the northern coast of Massachusetts.  By five o'clock, I was still in the car and I still had to go to the supermarket so we could have food in the house.  I stopped home before heading on to get groceries, and I was just...plain...spent.  But then, just when I thought I couldn't go on, I walked into the house to find Jim making...wait for it...fresh pasta!!!  Happy Sunday, one and all!  The grocery store can wait until after work tomorrow.  I'm going to eat some delicious homemade, hand-cut pappardelle.  Then I will indulge in a delicious cannoli we brought home from the North End this afternoon.  For those of you who are still deciding on Modern Pastry versus Mike's...I'm a Modern girl all the way.  So excuse me while I go into my food coma now.

Fresh Pasta
makes 2 lbs

6 eggs
4 cups of all-purpose flour

Put the flour in the bowl of a standing mixer.  Create a well in the center and put in the eggs.  Attach the dough hook, and combine until the dough is formed.  If your dough is not coming together, add water - about 1 tablespoon at a time - until it does.  On a lightly floured surface, roll out your dough until thin.  If you have a pasta maker, this part should be extremely easy.  Once rolled out, you can cut the dough into strips of pasta.  You can make them any width you'd like.  Jim cut them about 1/2 an inch wide, creating pappardelle.      As you cut the pasta, set them aside on something they won't stick to.  Jim used a flat bed sheet draped across the dining room table - whatever, it worked.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and add the pasta.  Let cook for about 2 minutes.  Drain and serve with any sauce of your choosing.  Mangia!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Quick and Easy Naan Bread Greek Pizza

I have to go back to work tonight.  This means I need to leave work, get Adrienne from day care, get her home, make dinner, eat dinner, and drive right back to work.  It's nights like these that make you want to grab fast food on your way to the next location.  I need something super quick and super easy...hence the "quick and easy" part of this recipe.  It is so quick and easy that I can cook it, eat it, and blog about it before I need to go back to work - and it was so tasty, I just needed to put this idea out there for all my other super busy mom-friends.  Adrienne likes it too!

I love doing a Greek pizza this way, but feel free to use the Naan bread idea with any toppings you'd like.  I'm sure it would be delicious.  I usually use pita to make these, but I just happened to have whole wheat naan bread sitting in my fridge.  I like it so much better than pita pizzas!  It will be naan bread pizza from now on.

Naan Bread Greek Pizza
makes 4 servings

2 pieces of whole wheat naan bread, cut in half
4 tsp olive oil
1/2 cup reduced fat feta cheese, crumbled
1 cup part-skim shredded mozzarella cheese
1 can artichoke hearts, drained, rinsed, and chopped
1 yellow tomato, thinly sliced

On each half of naan bread:
Drizzle with a teaspoon of olive oil
Crumble 2 Tbsp of feta on top
Add some of the chopped artichokes to your liking
Sprinkle with 1/4 cup of the mozzarella
Top with a couple of slices of tomato.

Heat in a toaster oven at 400 degrees for about 10-15 minutes until the cheese is melted.  Then switch to toast for another 5 minutes.  It should be slightly crisp and browned when ready.  Serve with tatziki sauce.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Bubby's Matzo Ball Soup

Happy Rosh Hashanah!!!  Rosh Hashana is the Jewish New Year - one of the holiest holidays we celebrate.  My mother came to visit for the week so we did not need to eat matzo ball soup together over Skype.  My mom was smart enough to get down my Bubby's recipe for matzo ball soup before she passed away two years ago.  Nobody will ever do it exactly like Bubby did it - it would be impossible - my mom probably lacks the appropriate Czech paperwork - but, she absolutely does it the justice it deserves.  This soup will always bring me back to my childhood, sitting in my Bubby's tiny Brooklyn kitchen on Friday nights, or my mother's Passover Seder table.

You can really use any soup recipe you'd like.  This is extremely close my Bubby's...I added some of the things she did that make it very her own - like the  fact that she always used turkey and NOT chicken.  She called it chicken soup and we were none the wiser as kids.  She also always put a potato in there, which is really yummy to eat along with the carrots and turkey meat.  

There are some changes I have needed to make.  Instead of the parsnip that I use, she always used "parsley root."  It's called petrushka.  You can't find it everywhere.  So I usually use parsnip instead.  My mother does not deviate, so she actually brought petrushka all the way from PA to use when making the soup at my house.  My family also swears by bouillon.  They add it to their soup.  I don't.  Add it if you like, but then be sure to start with much less salt if any at all.   

For the soup:

2 turkey necks
2 turkey thighs
1 piece of lean bone-in meat (nothing fancy - it is just being used to flavor the soup)
3 celery ribs, roughly chopped into big chunks
3 carrots, roughly chopped into big chunks
1 parsnip, roughly chopped into big chunks
1 peeled potato
2 onions, unpeeled and quartered
1 head of garlic, cut in half horizontally
1 bay leaf
1 Tbsp black peppercorns
1 Tbsp kosher salt (or more to taste

Add all the ingredients in a stock pot and cover with water.  Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer and cook uncovered for at least 3 hours.  As it cooks, skim the top of the pot occasionally as it gets frothy with undesirables.

The matzo balls:

4 eggs
2 pinches of salt
1 pinch of pepper
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup canola oil
1-1/4 cups matzo meal

Beat the eggs, salt and pepper in a large bowl.  Add the water and oil and combine.  Now add the matzoh meal while stirring simultaneously.  Cover and let rest in the fridge for 20 minutes.  While you wait, bring 6 cups of chicken broth to boil in a wide pot.  When ready, make 8 balls out of your mixture.  You can roll them just like you would a meatball between your palms.  Then add them one by one to the boiling broth.  Cover, reduce to a simmer, and let cook for at least 30 minutes.

Serve the matzo balls with some broth, carrots, potato, turkey meat, and/or noodles.  I hope you enjoy this as much as I do!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Apple Pie

Fall is here and with it comes apple picking.  Apple picking with friends and family is on the top of my list of favorite things, and baking an apple pie with the fruits of our labor (pun intended) is second.  I decided to make my own pie dough for the very first time and it was well worth it.  I don't think I'll ever buy pie crust again.  It wasn't that difficult or time-consuming to make, it is extremely easy to do ahead of time, and it tasted astronomically better than the store-bought stuff.  I wanted a second piece tonight just so I could have more flaky, buttery pie crust.

Apple Pie

For the dough:
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp sugar
8 Tbsp all vegetable shortening, chilled
12 Tbsp unsalted butter, chilled, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
6-8 Tbsp ice water

In a food processor, combine the flour, salt, and sugar.  Then add the shortening and process for about 10 seconds until the flour looks like course sand.  Scatter the butter pieces on top and give ten 1-second pulses so that the mixture is pale yellow and resembles coarse crumbs with butter pieces no bigger than peas.  Turn the mixture into a medium bowl.  Sprinkle the ice water on top and use a rubber spatula to fold the mixture until the dough sticks together.  (Add a little more water - in 1 Tbsp intervals - if the dough won't stick together.)  Divide the dough into two even pieces.  Roll into balls and wrap in plastic wrap.  refrigerate for at least an hour and up to 2 days.  You can freeze it for 3 months.

For the filling:
3 lbs baking apples (I used Macintoshes and Cortlands), peeled, cored and thinly sliced
1 Tbsp lemon juice (optional)
3/4 cup sugar
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp salt

Also...for the finishing:
1 egg white, lightly beaten
1/2 tsp sugar

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Combine the apple slices and lemon juice.  In a large bowl, combine sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.  Add the apples and toss to coat.

Roll out one of the balls of dough to a 12-inch circle on a lightly flour surface.  To lift the dough, roll it onto your rolling pin and unroll it onto the pie plate (I used 9-inch, but you could do 9-1/2).  Pour in the apple mixture.  Roll out the second ball of dough into another 12-inch circle and cover the apple filling with it.  Trim the edges to hang 1/2-inch beyond your pie plate.  Flute the edging or press with the tines of a fork to seal.   Cut four slits in the top.  If the dough had gotten very soft, put the pie in the freezer for ten minutes.  Then, brush the top with the egg white and sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 tsp of sugar.

Place pie on a baking sheet and on the middle rack of your preheated oven.  Cook for 25 minutes.  Then rotate the pie, turn down the oven temperature to 375 degrees, and bake for another 30 minutes until the crust is golden brown.  Let cool for four hours.  I recommend doing this.  We couldn't wait that long and broke into it after only an hour.  It definitely needed more than an hour to set.  Next time, I'll wait two and see how that goes.  It smells so good that I don't think I could possibly wait four!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Indian Spiced Cauliflower and Potatoes

This is one of my absolute favorite dishes!  Do I say that about everything?  Well I really mean it with this dish.  If you like the flavors of Indian food, then this is an absolutely amazing way to prepare cauliflower.  With all the jarred pastes and sauces that you can find at the supermarket these days, it's really easy to throw together a curry or masala dish with little prep time - especially if you use a can of chickpeas and avoid chopping any meat.  Easiest dinner ever.  Yet every time I decide to do this, I am absolutely compelled to make this cauliflower as a side dish.  It really is that good.  I just need to have it.

Indian Spiced Cauliflower and Potatoes
recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen

1 head of cauliflower (about 1-3/4 lbs), diced in 3/4 inch pieces
3 yukon gold potatoes (about 1-1/2 lbs), peeled and diced in 1/2-inch pieces
5 Tbsp canola oil
1/2 tsp cumin seed
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp minced ginger
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/8 tsp cayenne
1/2 cup water

Put a large baking dish on the middle rack of your oven and preheat to 475 degrees.  While the oven is heating up, combine the cauliflower, potatoes, 3 Tbsp of the oil, cumin seed, and half the salt in a large bowl.  Once the oven is preheated, spray the baking dish with cooking spray and add the vegetables.  Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes until the potatoes are cooked through, stirring occasionally.  While the vegetables bake, heat the remaining oil in a large nonstick pan over medium heat.  Add the onion, garlic, and ginger and cook stirring frequently until the onions are golden, about 8 to 10 minutes.  Add the cumin, coriander, turmeric, cayenne and remaining salt to the pan, and stir constantly for about 2 minutes.  Add the water and stir, scraping up any browned bits.  Then add the cooked vegetables and combine.  Turn the heat down and cover.  Let cook for another 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  I let it cook closer to 10 minutes because I like the cauliflower and potatoes to really blend together until it becomes like a really delicious, super chunky, mashed potato cauliflower dish.

You can absolutely serve this by itself.  It is so good that it can easily stand alone.  I always make it as a side dish to something and brown basmati rice.  I'd rather not double up on the carbs, but if I didn't make the rice, Jim would probably lose his mind.  If I'm in a really crazy mood, I'll heat up some whole wheat naan bread.  Call the police because this is so delicious it must be illegal.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Chicken with Tomato Herb Pan Sauce

When the refrigerator starts to fill with cherry tomatoes, I make this dish.  This sauce is a great way to use some up some of those little beauties.  I had lots of little yellow pear tomatoes and some purple-green cherry tomatoes.  They made the sauce taste terrific, although I was  disappointed with the dull color the sauce took on.  If you make this with red tomatoes, your sauce will look much prettier.  (Not that it matters.)  You could make this along side anything you'd like - rice, pasta, potatoes - although I don't think it makes nearly enough of a sauce to actually coat pasta.  My personal favorite is polenta.  It goes really well with the sauce.  So that is my recommendation.  I am sure you will truly enjoy this with whatever side dish you choose.

Chicken with Tomato Herb Pan Sauce
recipe adapted from Annie Eats

6 thin boneless, skinless chicken breasts cutlets
2 Tbsp softened unsalted butter
1 1/2 tsp chopped fresh oregano
1/2 tsp paprika
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp olive oil
2 cups cherry tomatoes (or any type of tiny tomato)
1/3 cup low sodium chicken broth
salt and pepper

Combine the butter, oregano, paprika, and garlic in a small bowl.  Heat half of this butter mixture with the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat.  Season the chicken cutlets with salt and pepper add to the pan.  I needed to do this in batches.  Cook the chicken breasts 3-4 minutes per side or until they are fully cooked and put on a plate tented with foil to keep warm until the sauce is done.  Once the chicken is removed from the pan, add the cherry tomatoes and let them blister up a bit for a minute or so.  Then add the chicken broth and scrape up all the browned bits from the pan.  Continue cooking the tomatoes for about 5 minutes until you are able to press them with the back of a spoon so that they burst open and create your sauce.  Add the remaining butter mixture and combine.  Then return your chicken to the pan with any juices.  Enjoy!